Rockford pastor resigns amid sex abuse lawsuit against North Love Baptist Church

Rockford Register Star

August 24, 2021

By Chris Green

ROCKFORD — The Rev. Paul Kingsbury, senior pastor and the face of North Love Baptist Church since 1982, has resigned in the wake of a lawsuit claiming a church employee sexually abused a teenage girl.

The seven-count suit, filed by a woman in May in Winnebago County Court, alleges John Neese of Loves Park had an abusive relationship with former church member from 2004 to 2006.

The complaint lists several positions for Neese, and it’s not clear in what capacity

Neese served the church at the time of the alleged offenses. According the complaint, Neese also was employed in a managerial position at Independence Village, a local retirement facility.

The lawsuit — which names Neese, the church and Independence Village as defendants

— alleges individuals from the church and the retirement home “were aware, or reasonably should have been aware, that Neese was having inappropriate interactions with minors” at the church, the retirement facility as well as at his residence.

Doug Stodola, chairman of the deacon board, informed the congregation Sunday that Kingsbury’s resignation was unanimously accepted by the deacon board.

Reading from a prepared statement, Stodola said:

“The deacons are fully aware and take serious the allegations being made against pastor Kingsbury and North Love Baptist Church. The deacons are united and looking into these matters. Please give us time and have patience as we seek the truth in Christ. The pastoral

staff members are committed to remaining faithful servants here at North Love Baptist Church.”

Stodola opened his remarks by talking about transparency. His announcement was recorded and initially posted on the church’s Facebook page but has since been removed. However, the video can be found on the Facebook group page called Do Right North Love.

Ron Haese will serve as interim pastor while a search is underway for a new pastor. Haese followed Stodola’s remarks saying Kingsbury “did nothing to disqualify himself as the pastor of North Love Baptist Church or any other church.”

“But those of you that were here on Wednesday remember pastor saying he made a dumb mistake. ‘I made a dumb mistake.’ And because of that mistake, he felt that it was wise for him to resign. And the deacons and myself and pastor (Donnie) Barnes agreed with him.”

The civil matter is scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. Sept. 1 before Judge Lisa Fabiano.

North Love Baptist Church is home to a private Christian school, Bible College, Bus Ministry, and Reformers Unanimous, an addictions program now offered in more than a thousand churches across the United States and several other countries around the world.

Chris Green:; @chrisfgreen